Edited by Jan M. Smits
Chapter 11: China
With the rapid development of the economy over the past few decades, the legal system of the People’s Republic of China is receiving ever more interest from the West. The study of Chinese law poses special challenges for those educated in the Western world. In fact, the concept of law as we know it today is difficult to place in the Chinese legal tradition. In China’s thousands years of history, the notion of law has been frequently associated with the ideology of punishment, which only referred to the criminal law. The development of modern Chinese law started in the early 20th century, the purpose of which was to maintain the rule of the Qing Dynasty because it was believed that reform of the legal system could lead to China becoming a more influential country. The reform of the traditional legal system was largely based on the models of German law and Japanese law. From that time onwards, China was mostly influenced by the example of the European continental legal system. However, it has to be noted that although the legal system in mainland China is uniform, Hong Kong and Macao have a different legal system. In Hong Kong, the common law system is still in place, while Macao implemented a legal system based on the Portuguese model. In mainland China only the People’s Congress and its Standing Committee can make national law, while each province or autonomous region can make local statutes (in so far as this is not contrary to the law).
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